t is official. During a Thursday morning Senate hearing, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Obama administration is deliberating whether or not it should utilize the US military in Syria. This means that President Barack Obama is considering using military force in Syria, and the Pentagon has prepared various scenarios for possible United States intervention.
Gen. Dempsey said the administration was considering using “kinetic strikes ” in Syria and said “the issue is under deliberation inside of our agencies of government ,” the Associated Press reported from Washington.
According to RT TV, a Russian news service:
Dempsey, 61, is the highest ranking officer in the US military and has been nominated by President Obama to serve a second term in that role. The Senate Armed Services Committee questioned him Thursday morning as part of the nominating process when Dempsey briefly discussed the situation in Syria.
Last month, the Obama administration concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons during the ongoing battles. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said, “The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete.”
President Obama said previously that the use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and likely trigger American intervention. When the White House concluded Assad had relied on chemical warfare, Rhodes said, “both the political and the military opposition … is and will be receiving US assistance.”
This brings us to the question “Is this a setup where the reason given to start yet another war aimed at overthrowing yet another government of a foreign country that has been long planned in advance by the US?” Given our history, this is likely.
First of all, the evidence of chemical weapons use is itself sketchy. So far we only have a CIA report , which was described by an American official who declined to be identified, which states that the United States has acquired blood, urine and hair samples from two Syrian rebels–one dead and one wounded–who were in a firefight with Syrian government forces in mid-March northeast of Damascus. The samples showed that the rebels were exposed to sarin.
Secondly, although US intelligence reports are tentative, our media has been portraying them as definitive. The press is raring to go on this, just like they were on Feb. 5, 2003 when Colin Powell spoke before the United Nations, claiming there was absolute proof that Saddam Hussein’s regime was armed to the teeth with Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Syria’s WMDs came from Iraq
How did the Assad regime come by these chemical weapons? It was reported in the New York Sun on January 26, 2006 that Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam “transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria. The Iraqi Revolutionary Guard moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria in advance of the U.S.-led action to eliminate Hussein’s WMD threat.”
Two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, and special Republican Guard units loaded the planes with chemical weapons materials. There were, all told, 56 flights disguised as a relief effort after a June 4, 2002 collapse of the Zeyzoun Dam wiped out a village just below the impoundment, killing 20 people and washing away houses, cattle, hospitals, schools, water pumps and vehicles in five villages, stopping only when the water hit and joined the Orontes River more than 8 miles away.
There were also truck convoys into Syria. Both Israeli and U.S. intelligence observed large truck convoys leaving Iraq and entering Syria in the weeks and months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, John Shaw, former deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, told a private conference of former weapons inspectors and intelligence experts held in Arlington, Va., in 2006.
It was reported in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarte rly that Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, stated: “Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria.”
The U.S.A. provided Iraq with chem and bio capability
And here we come full circle. This report is from Common Dreams (Sept. 8, 2002):
The US and Britain sold Saddam Hussein the technology and materials Iraq needed to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Reports by the US Senate’s committee on banking, housing and urban affairs — which oversees American exports policy — reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene.
UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and established that these items were used to further Iraq’s chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs.
It is clear that the US government knows about everything that goes on everywhere, all of the time. It has mastered this technique since before President Truman established the CIA following World War 2. Furthermore, it is undeniable that we have planned a complete takeover of the Middle East and its petroleum reserves since then.
Going to war with Syria will complete our encirclement of Iran, the last bastion of Middle Eastern oil reserves that America covets.
That pesky “al Qaeda”
Once again, our excuse for an exercise in American use of real weapons of mass destruction will be laid at the feet of the terrorist boogeymen that we ourselves create. This is from USA Today of June 14:
A Syrian rebel group’s April pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda’s replacement for Osama bin Laden suggests that the terrorist group’s influence is not waning and that it may take a greater role in the Western-backed fight to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The pledge of allegiance by Syrian Jabhat al Nusra Front chief Abou Mohamad al-Joulani to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri was coupled with an announcement by the al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, that it would work with al Nusra as well.
The shadowy al Qaeda terrorist group that we attribute all of our woes to is a creature we devised to fight the Russians in Afghanistan back in the nether regions of public memory, when Osama bin Laden was our friend and hero. Why would we use them for our own ends to overthrow the Syrian government? For the same reason that we turned a blind eye when Israel attacked Lebanon a week ago, bombing southern Beiruit in the hopes of destroying the offices of Hezbollah.
It’s one more brick in the wall we’re building around Iran and its 150 billion barrels of oil, which make it second only to Saudi Arabia.
— 30 —
James R. Bailey is a 30 year veteran reporter, political activist, environmentalist, and homesteader in northern Wisconsin’s Chequamegon National Forest in the Town of Grand View. He was recently on the campaign staff of Wisconsin Secretary of State (more…)
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The most important court case taking place over the last month has involved no hoodies or homosexuality. This case does not arouse the primitivegroupthink and culture wars into which so many recent high-profile cases have devolved. However, while the trial of former Army Private Bradley Manning offers no edgy photo to adorn the tabloids, the proceedings offer a clear picture of American society. Without hyperbole, the outcome of this trial may reveal whether America remains a nation of free and sovereign individuals, or a mass of subjects under the authority of a military-intelligence state.
On Thursday, Col. Denise Lind, the judge presiding over Manning’s case, sent an ominous sign for Bradley and for freedom of speech, re-affirming the most serious charge against the former Army private. Previously, the defense motioned to omit the charge of “aiding the enemy,” on the ground that Manning did not knowingly offer information to Al-Qaeda or any enemy combatants. Government prosecutors rebutted that Manning knew that terrorist groups would scour the information on WikiLeaks. The prosecution’s premise asserts that offering intelligence to a third party constitutes aiding the enemy if the enemy might uncover the materials. Judge Lind seems to agree.
In a few quick logical connections, the trial of Bradley Manning for the charge of “aiding the enemy” would put on trial the existence of independent investigative journalism. The prosecution has already made those connections. In a move which she may regret, Capt. Angel Overgaardaffirmed that Manning would have faced the same charges whether he had given the information to WikiLeaks or the New York Times. Previously, in the most similar high-profile case regarding the leaking of military secrets, Daniel Ellsberg ultimately faced no penalty for leaking the “Pentagon Papers” to the New York Times. However, the judge in that case left much ambiguity, dismissing the charges against Ellsberg due to governmental misconduct rather than acquitting him on principle.
With courts’ past ambiguity on the release of sensitive information, the unprecedented case of Bradley Manning could set some foreboding precedents. For instance, if Col. Lind finds Manning guilty of “aiding the enemy” — and there is no difference between a leak to WikiLeaks or to theNew York Times — then not only WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but any journalist publishing information that the government does not want published, could face fierce charges from the Department of Justice. Indeed, the Department of Justice has declared that any soldier who speaks with WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters is subject to charges of “communicating with the enemy,” implying that WikiLeaks itself is the enemy. If there is no difference betweenWikiLeaks and mainstream newspapers, then it appears that the government aims to wage war on journalists — and, therefore, on freedom of speech and thought.
A new scandal emerges every other day regarding egregious violations of liberty by another arm of the Leviathan government — the IRS, the Department of Justice, the NSA, and the U.S. military, to name a few recent perpetrators. The government has engaged more frequently than ever before in criminalizing men and women whose only crime was speaking the truth. (In case you live under a rock, see Edward Snowden.) Whether the government aims benevolently to protect our national security or not, all Americans — and all dignified human beings who reject Orwellian totalitarianism — must oppose the outlawing of truth and the war on speech.
And the innocent Bradley Manning must be free.
FORT MEADE, United States/Maryland: A military judge will rule on Thursday whether to drop some charges against Bradley Manning, the US soldier who has admitting giving a massive cache of secret documents to WikiLeaks.
As the espionage trial enters its final stage, Manning’s defence lawyer, David Coombs, renewed his request on Monday for the judge to toss out several counts – including the most serious charge that the soldier “aided the enemy” – on grounds the prosecution has failed to provide incriminating evidence.
Apart from the aiding the enemy count, the defence has asked Judge Denise Lind to toss out charges that Manning committed computer fraud by allegedly exceeding his authorized access and that he allegedly stole government property in his document dump.
The former intelligence analyst in Iraq already has pleaded guilty to ten lesser offenses, acknowledging that he passed hundreds of thousands of military intelligence reports and State Department diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of classified files in American history.
But the trial is focused on whether Manning broke rules governing the use of his computer, violated the Espionage Act by leaking sensitive information that could harm US national security and had the intention of assisting Al-Qaeda through his disclosures.
Coombs said the government has not offered “any evidence” to show that Manning knew the leaked files could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda militants.
To say that “he should have known” was not sufficient, Coombs said.
“There should have been something more than simply that,” he said.
The judge has said the government must prove Manning had “actual knowledge” that his leak would aid the enemy, either directly or indirectly.
At Monday’s proceedings, Coombs sought to counter the government’s allegation that Manning committed computer fraud by downloading classified documents using a program known as Wget.
The defence says Manning already had access to the data he downloaded because of his job as an intelligence analyst and that he used the Wget program simply to speed up the download.
Manning, 25, faces a possible life sentence on the aiding the enemy charge and a total of more than 140 years if found guilty on all counts.
The prosecution rested its case after five weeks and the defence presented its case in three days of testimony last week.
The judge also is due to rule on the scope of the prosecution’s planned “rebuttal” to the evidence put forward by the defence.
Manning has become a folk hero to his supporters who see him as a crusading whistle-blower trying to expose the excesses of US foreign policy.
But his critics say Manning betrayed his soldier’s oath and portray him as a reckless traitor who undermined US diplomacy and endangered lives with his leak.
The prosecution in the Bradley Manning court martial rested their case on Tuesday of this week, well ahead of schedule, taking only 14 days in the courtroom. A casual observer might think the prosecution finished early because they have an easy job: Manning has admitted to leaking the vast majority of documents in question, and he’s already pleaded guilty to a list of crimes on his charge sheet that could get him 20 years in a military prison.
But Manning and his defense team argue his actions don’t warrant the most serious charges against him, the most controversial being ‘Aiding the Enemy.’ That could get him life in prison.
In its opening statement, the prosecution put a graphic up on a courtroom screen— It was the Wikileaks “Most wanted list,” a wish list posted on their website in 2009, the year before Manning began leaking documents. Chief prosecutor, Captain Joe Morrow, said the government would show that Manning used it as a ‘shopping list,’ and they would show even more direct coordination between Manning and Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange. But we saw little of that in court.
“They have no forensic evidence connecting that- what they have is circumstantial evidence,” according to Adam Klasfeld, who has been covering the court martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, for Courthouse News. He says the prosecution’s own experts have been unable to deliver evidence Manning had followed directions, even in-directly, from Wikileaks. The forensic analyst called by the prosecution “didn’t find any visit to the [Wikileaks] URL,” on Manning’s computer, and didn’t find any evidence of communication in the “unallocated space,” on Manning’s computer, the area where deleted e-mails would remain. Klasfeld says the prosecution argued the lack of material in the unallocated space was suspicious. “So in the absence of that evidence, the government’s theory was that Manning had wiped his computer, and so that’s why it wasn’t found there,” he says.
What the government did show was uncontested evidence that the leaked material made it into the hands of Al Qaeda, citing Al Qaeda propaganda, and records recovered from Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. But Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale law school says even this connection is indirect.
“I think the government’s effort on the aiding the enemy charge was basically predicated on circumstantial evidence,” he says. “And if you connect—if you could put enough dots on the chart—the theory is that the Military judge would almost inevitably connect them.”
But as Fidell points out, the prosecution has not been able to provide as many dots as promised in their opening statement. “One thing that teaches is the danger of making promises in an opening statement that you can’t keep,” he says. “As it played out, I think the government may have concluded it either had made the demonstrated by circumstantial evidence or it decided it hadn’t, and couldn’t, and that may explain why they didn’t call many of the witnesses they said they were going to call and why they… wrapped up the prosecution case well before anyone anticipated.”
Bradley Manning’s team is scheduled to begin their defense on Monday, but Fidell expects that over this holiday weekend they will be drafting a new motion to dismiss the charges against the 25-year-old private.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday in the court martial of Bradley Manning, the Army private who has admitted to leaking 700,000 documents exposing US military atrocities and other crimes to the WikiLeaks web site in April of 2010.
The prosecutor, Major Ashden Fein, dropped one of the 22 charges against Manning. That charge alleged Manning had leaked intelligence to an “enemy” whose name is classified.
Over the course of five weeks, the prosecution has sought to establish by means of circumstantial evidence that Manning intended to send classified information to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations and conspired with WikiLeaks journalists to do so.
In charging Manning with “aiding the enemy” under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the US government is equating the publication of classified information about its secret and illegal activities with espionage, treason and aiding terrorists. It is doing so on the spurious grounds that such information can end up in the hands of forces considered by the government to be hostile.
In fact, as the Obama administration and the military well know, Manning released the information to inform the American people of war crimes being carried out by the US government in Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic intrigues targeting many other countries.
The clear implication of the government’s case is the position that any publication or organization that publishes leaked classified information or defends whistleblowers such as Manning is itself engaging in criminal and treasonous acts. The prosecution acknowledged as much in January when it argued that its case against Manning, which implicates WikiLeaks in treasonous and pro-terrorist activities, would apply equally if the Army private had passed his information to the New York Times .
This sweeping attack on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the press occurs in the context of threats to prosecute journalists such as the Guardian ’s Glenn Greenwald for publishing former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s exposures of US government spying, and revelations that the government seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters and tapped into the email of Fox News’ James Rosen, who was named a co-conspirator by the Justice Department in relation to State Department leaks.
Proceedings in the court martial will resume next Monday with defense motions to dismiss many of the remaining charges for lack of evidence.
Prosecutors claimed that Manning was in direct contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that the latter directed Manning in the selection, downloading and transmission of classified documents. As evidence of this supposed coordination, the government showed the court a WikiLeaks web posting of a “most wanted list” of government secrets, though there was no evidence that Manning took a cue from this list, or ever saw it. The same was true with a tweet encouraging the collection of military emails by WikiLeaks.
Prosecutors also allege that Manning knowingly violated protocol for handling classified information, but cross-examination of a prosecution witness revealed that the Army had lost the document Manning signed acknowledging that he understood the terms in question. The Army’s failure to produce this document may result in dismissal of some of the charges.
In its effort to establish that Manning leaked information out of “evil intent” to “aid the enemy,” the prosecution alleged that he first leaked a classified video of a US air strike in November of 2009, within days of his arrival in Iraq, and not, as Manning states, in April 2010. Manning admits that he leaked the video, but says he did so following a change of conscience in late December of 2009, when he saw a video of a roadside bomb killing civilians whose vehicles were forced off the road by a US military convoy.
A prosecution witness had to admit that the copy of the video allegedly transmitted by Manning in 2009 did not match the version found on Manning’s computer.
Even if Manning did not intend for Al Qaeda to have access to the leaked information, prosecutors contend, he still should have known that WikiLeaks was a threat to the US Army. The evidence offered to show this was a 32-page intelligence report by military counterintelligence on WikiLeaks, which concluded that sensitive or classified information WikiLeaks received “could be of value to foreign intelligence and security services (FISS), foreign military forces, foreign insurgents, and foreign terrorist groups for collecting information or for planning attacks against US forces, both within the United States and abroad.”
Manning allegedly leaked this very report, which WikiLeaks made public in March 2010. Since Manning leaked the document, prosecutors allege, he must have read it.
Manning has not denied his leaking of documents to WikiLeaks and has offered a guilty plea to charges relating to this. Prosecutors have rejected the plea offer.
Manning strictly denies the charge of “aiding the enemy,” which carries a possible death sentence.
The entire trial is a travesty of justice aimed at silencing and punishing those who expose criminality by the US government rather than those who are responsible for war crimes and crimes against the democratic rights of the American people.
Barack Obama had been President for only one full day when, on Jan. 22, 2009, he acted on a central campaign promise. Arguing that the Founding Fathers would agree that America must “observe the core standards of conduct not just when it’s easy but also when it’s hard,” Obama signed an executive order to close the notorious military prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, where the Bush administration had detained hundreds of men captured in combat and counter terrorism operations since 2001. With dozens of men imprisoned for years without charges brought against them, and in many cases having actually been cleared for release, Obama said closing Guantánamo would return America to the “moral high ground” it had yielded in its ruthless pursuit of al-Qaeda during the Bush years. “I can tell you that the wrong answer is to pretend like this problem will go away,” Obama said in May 2009. “I refuse to pass it on to somebody else. It is my responsibility to solve the problem.”
Four years later, with Guantánamo still open–and the site of widespread hunger strikes and other acts of disobedience by many of its 166 inmates–Obama is again trying to fulfill that responsibility. In a May 23 address about a range of his counter-terrorism policies, including drone strikes, Obama declared the start of a new push against the political obstacles that thwarted his first attempt to close the most infamous symbol of the US’s post-9/11 war on terrorism. “[History] will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it,” Obama said.
But Obama will be hard pressed to live up to his grand rhetoric. Opposition still runs high to the idea of releasing or bringing into US prisons dozens of men widely considered dangerous terrorists even if many are not. Asked to gauge the probability that Obama can close Guantánamo before he leaves office, David Remes, a lawyer who represents 18 Guantánamo inmates replies, “Zero.” And even if Obama can shut down the site known colloquially as Gitmo, he hasn’t promised to end the practice of long-term incarceration without trial that along with interrogation techniques like waterboarding blighted the US’s track record for treating prisoners in the so-called global war on terrorism. The prison camp on Cuba’s southern tip may or may not be shuttered during Obama’s watch, but Gitmo, in the metaphorical sense, may never really close.
Nor is America’s long war on terrorism about to end. Obama’s speech revealed a man “haunted” by the deaths of innocents in drone strikes and wrestling with the balance between national security and the constitution’s integrity. But while he announced tighter standards for ordering drone strikes abroad (including an unspoken plan to partly shift the programme from the CIA to the theoretically more accountable Pentagon) and spoke of a day when the war might be declared over, Obama is retaining broad powers to detain or kill suspected terrorists, to conduct aggressive surveillance and to use military force in foreign nations. “To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties,” Obama said. “We must finish the work of defeating al-Qaeda and its associated forces.”
Hungry for Clarity
At last count, military medical personnel at Gitmo were force-feeding 35 of the more than 100 inmates who refuse to eat. Twice a day, those men are strapped into restraining chairs as tubes that run up their noses and down their throats fill their stomachs with a compound called Ensure, a supplement used by everyone from athletes to dieters. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called force-feeding a violation of international law, and the World Medical Association, of which the US is a member, declared in 1991 that the practice is “never ethically acceptable” unless a prisoner consents or is unable to make a rational choice. (The WMA calls it “ethical to allow a determined hunger striker to die.”)
Although Remes says he suspects the inmates at Gitmo are aware of the President’s speech and that some may even have watched it on television, he doubts that the hunger strikes will end anytime soon. “Obama has no credibility with the detainees,” he says. “I bet they didn’t even look up from their chessboards.” Then, recalling that after recent scuffles with their guards, inmates were barred from congregating, he adds, “No, they’re not playing chess. They’re not even allowed to be together.”
A lack of faith in Obama is one reason for the hunger strikes (although detainees have also alleged improper treatment by guards, including charges of mishandling Quran, that the military denies). Among the hunger strikers are 86 who have been declared safe for release–some of them by two different administrations–and who were crushed when Obama failed to deliver on his 2009 promise to close Gitmo.
Should They Stay or Should They Go?
Understanding why Gitmo hasn’t closed requires understanding who exactly is there. The camp holds three types of inmates, each posing different challenges. The first group consists of those 86 detainees deemed safe to release to their home countries or third nations, so long as they can be monitored and accounted for to ensure they don’t take up arms against the US The second group consists of suspected terrorists whom the administration is prosecuting or plans to charge with specific crimes. The third group consists of prisoners too dangerous to simply release–for reasons that could include a suspected organizational role in al-Qaeda, explosives training or in some cases an openly stated desire to kill Americans–but also impossible to put on trial, maybe because of evidence rendered inadmissible by torture; because the troops who captured them didn’t collect evidence; or because they supported al-Qaeda before the US made that a crime for foreigners overseas.
The first group is the easiest to deal with. Obama has the freedom to send the 86 men home on his own. Fifty-six of them are from Yemen–all of whom could be there by now had al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, whose leaders included an ex–Gitmo detainee, not tried to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day 2009, leading Obama to halt detainee transfers back to the country. Obama now says improvements in the Yemeni government’s ability to monitor repatriated detainees allows him to lift his self-imposed moratorium on returning detainees there. He can likewise dispatch the rest of the cleared inmates to other countries unilaterally.
Republicans warn that even some of those detainees deemed safe for release will inevitably join forces with Islamic radicals–as did Saeed al-Shihri months after his 2007 release from Gitmo, eventually rising to the No. 2 spot in al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch before being killed by a drone strike earlier this year. “I don’t trust the government” in Yemen, Republican Representative Peter King told ABC’s This Week on May 26. But they can’t prevent Obama from proceeding. How fast he’ll move is another question: Obama said each of the Yemenis must first undergo yet another review.
The second and third groups are considerably tougher cases. Obama would like to move the trials by military commissions now under way at Guantánamo to a location in the US and bring any new cases against prosecutable suspects on American soil, either in military or civilian courts. He also presumably intends to move to highly secure sites in the US the roughly 46 who can be neither released nor tried, until some solution can be found for them. But right now Obama can’t move any detainees into the US without Congress’s help. In 2009 he tried to resettle some low-risk prisoners in the US and also proposed trying alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Gitmo inmates in federal court. A furious backlash from conservatives and even many Democrats who feared the soft-on-terrorists label prompted Congress to block inmate transfers into the US for any reason.
And while Obama’s May 23 speech may have stirred the hearts of some liberal supporters, it doesn’t seem to have moved the Republicans whose support he’ll need to move detainees into the US, particularly in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. “I don’t get the sense that this pressure is having an impact” on House Republicans, says Representative Adam Smith, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Many Republicans argue that the risk of detainees’ committing future acts of terrorism outweighs the damage Guantánamo does to the US’s image. And they have little interest in Obama’s appetite for moving more terrorism cases into civilian courts.
Lately Obama has tried speaking the language Republicans best understand–spending–by pointing out that each inmate at Gitmo costs $800,000 per year to house, for a total of about $150 million per year in operations. But when it comes to closing Gitmo, Smith says, many of the Republicans whose support Obama would need to approve transfers to US prisons have boxed themselves in politically. House Speaker John Boehner, for instance, has called the prison a “world-class facility” and in 2010 said he wouldn’t vote to close it “if you put a gun to my head.”
The broader themes of Obama’s speech may not have helped the Guantánamo cause either. Far from agreeing with the President’s talk of a severely weakened al-Qaeda and his aspiration to wind down the war on terrorism, some Republicans accused him of complacency and retreat. Newt Gingrich called Obama’s vision “breathtakingly, stunningly naive.” Such talk is hardly the groundwork for a new spirit of cooperation.
Some Problems Have No Solution
Even assuming that the president can close Gitmo by resettling some detainees in other countries and bringing the rest to trials and prisons in the US, a major problem will remain: What to do with the 48 detainees who can’t be tried or released for fear that they will return to the “battlefield” of the war on terrorism? After all, holding prisoners without charges would seem to violate the constitution’s fundamental habeas corpus guarantee. Obama doesn’t claim to have a clear answer, and his speech punted the question. He said only that “once we commit to a process of closing [Guantánamo], I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.”
For now, Obama deals with this legal equivalent of radioactive waste by treating those inmates as prisoners of war. In March 2009, Obama’s lawyers filed a legal brief justifying detention of Gitmo detainees under the laws of war–in this case the war on al-Qaeda, made official by Congress’s September 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which allowed for the invasion of Afghanistan and other counter-terrorism efforts. Ironically, “while it decries Guantánamo as contrary to American values, the Obama administration has convinced courts of its legal validity,” says Matthew Waxman, a former Bush detainee policy official now at Columbia Law School.
Rather than see Obama stretch that validity in new directions, one prominent human rights lawyer has actually argued for keeping Gitmo open. Closing it now “would do more harm than good,” human rights lawyer and Georgetown law professor Jennifer Daskal wrote in a January New York Times op-ed, because it would mean simply opening up a similar camp in the US, thereby “setting a precedent and creating a facility readily available to future Presidents wanting to rid themselves of a range of potentially dangerous actors.”
According to this vision, Gitmo would close when the war on terrorism is finally considered over. Lawyers for detainees might argue that should happen once the US’s lead combat role in Afghanistan ends in late 2014, for instance. Obama also says he’d like Congress to revisit the AUMF, perhaps to narrow its scope or even to declare the war over. “Usually if you’re holding prisoners of war, you release them at the end of hostilities,” says C. Dixon Osburn of Human Rights First.
But at a recent Senate hearing on the AUMF, a top Pentagon official testified that the war on al-Qaeda could last 10 to 20 more years. Some Republicans, including Senator John McCain, have suggested that the law should be broadened, not narrowed or repealed.
Rhetoric about the founders aside, it’s hard to imagine Obama’s releasing trained al-Qaeda members who have not renounced terrorism into the wild, as it were. “The administration’s view seems to be that so long as it’s only a small number of very dangerous al-Qaeda terrorists, it is legitimate to hold them without trial,” Waxman says. Obama would prefer not to hold them in the prison that stains America’s international reputation. But he may find the moral high ground he seeks is simply out of his reach.
Given his government’s policy in arming jihadist extremists in Libya and Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague should immediately order the transfer of heavy weaponry and aid to the two terrorists who beheaded a soldier in Woolwich yesterday.
Cameron yesterday condemned the slaughter of the soldier by two jihadists, remarking, “We have had these sorts of attacks before in our country, and we never buckle in the face of them,” and yet his government is desperately trying to aid insurgents in Syria who carry out similar atrocities on a regular basis in pursuit of the exact same extremist ideology.
Syrian rebels have been responsible for innumerable beheadings over the course of the conflict, chanting “Allahu Akbar” as they decapitate their victims just as the two terrorists in Woolwich did during their attack yesterday.
This hasn’t stopped Cameron and Hague aggressively pushing for deadly weaponry to be sent to Syrian jihadists. Indeed, even as the attack in London was unfolding yesterday, Cameron was urging that an arms embargo be lifted.
The UK government has attempted to differentiate between “extremist” rebels in Syria linked to the Al-Qaeda group Jabhat al Nusra and so-called “moderate” Free Syrian Army militants. The kind of “moderate” freedom fighters who like to cut out people’s hearts on camera and eat them….while chanting “Allahu Akbar”.
In reality, reports clearly indicate that Jabhat al Nusra terrorists are leading other FSA groups, 29 of which pledged allegiance to Al-Nusra immediately after the group was declared a terrorist organization by the State Department back in December. FSA fighters are defecting to Jabhat Al-Nusra in droves.
In addition, FSA groups, when they’re not busy burning U.S. flags and chanting anti-American slogans, are calling their fighting units “Osama Bin Laden” while singing songs that glorify the 9/11 attacks.
If these are the kind of men Cameron and Hague want to arm, then why don’t they immediately release the two Woolwich terrorists and send them off to Syria with machine guns and RPG launchers?
Why is Cameron so upset about terrorists killing a British soldier in London when he is trying to support Jabhat al Nusra terrorists who killed numerous British and U.S. troops in Iraq?
Why is Cameron’s government supporting jihadists in Syria who are arrested as terrorists by authorities when they return to Britain?
Cameron’s vehement support for the campaign in Libya, arming Al-Qaeda insurgents as part of the effort to depose Colonel Gaddafi, a process that led to the country being overtaken by brutal warlords and terrorist gangs who later took part in the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi last September, also renders his stance on the Woolwich attack completely baffling.
If this man had hopped on a plane to Syria, the British government would be treating him as a heroic freedom fighter.
From a wider perspective, yesterday’s murder plays very nicely into the establishment’s long term goal for a “clash of civilizations,” aided in no small part by the previous Labour government’s deliberate policy to flood the UK with immigrants in order to enforce disastrous “multiculturalism” policies that have been denounced by other European leaders.
In 1993, political scientist Samuel P. Huntington outlined the elite’s vision for a new world order shaped by clashes between cultures, not ideologies. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Huntington noted that, “Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world,” adding that, “The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.”
Having seen 9/11 and the resultant “war on terror” facilitate this narrative, western governments are now eager to fan the flames of racial sectarianism not only throughout the middle east but also across Europe and America. By hyping the threat posed by Islamic terrorism – which in reality poses less of a threat to human life than bee stings or drowning in a bath – and keeping populations in a perpetual state of fear – power can continue to be centralized, wars can be justified, and populations can be oppressed.
The two-pronged attack of inviting huge numbers of Muslims into the United Kingdom and enabling them to take advantage of the country’s generous benefits system while simultaneously slaughtering over a million Muslims abroad in wars of aggression has created the perfect environment for those wishing to expand state power.
In harboring a growing Muslim population while simultaneously killing their people, the UK government is creating all the homegrown terrorism it needs to justify continued neocolonialism in the middle east and an ever expanding arms industry.
Once acts of terror unfold and the media seizes upon them to fearmonger about the Muslim threat, far right idiots like the English Defence League can then be relied upon to riot and attack mosques, fueling the racial narrative of us vs. them, when in reality all sides are being manipulated from above.
The ignorance of westerners in thinking that all Muslims ascribe to the same extremist Wahhabi doctrine, when in reality this applies to a tiny minority of Muslims, also perpetuates the myth. As George Eaton writes, Muslims, “bear no more responsibility for jihadism than Christians do for the Ku Klux Klan or the Westboro Baptist Church.”
It is imperative to remember that while our governments constantly invoke the threat of Islamic extremism to justify military imperialism, centralization of power and domestic repression, they are simultaneously funding and arming Islamic extremists around the world.
Until both westerners and Muslims realize that authoritarian power structures pose the real threat – not manipulated fairy tales about Islamic extremism – will the violence begin to end and humanity can unite under the banner of freedom against its one true enemy – the state.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.